Garden to Table is a project managed by CommUniverCity San Jose, and our mission is to increase the consumption and accessibility of healthy food resources in Central San Jose - an area comprised of several low-income, predominantly Latino neighborhoods that lack easy access to healthy food resources.
To better serve our community, we want to establish ourselves as a non-profit and build an urban farm on a vacant lot in a low-income community in San Jose to bring in regular revenue to sustain all our operations and have a larger impact on community health.
How the Project Works:
For the last two years, we have increased food access and consumption by harvesting the area's many fruit trees (over 14,000 lbs to date), building 6 gardens at schools, home, and apartments, and providing a bundle of classes to increase gardening and nutrition knowledge. Additionally, we are planning the construction of another school garden in partnership with a local restaurant, as well as building a community garden this Spring.
To sustain these operations, we want to become a non-profit, build an urban farm in a low-income community on a vacant lot, and create a local food system by building gardens around the farm at homes, apartments, and schools, in addition to establishing regular fruit pickings to benefit the surrounding community, and holding classes at the farm.
Where the Funds are Going:
The $15,000 goal represents approximately 10% of the total funding needed to pay for filing fees to become a non-profit, salaries for employees to run the farm and our several programs, a truck to help with more harvests and getting building materials to the farm and gardens, infrastructural improvements for the farm itself, and establishing new gardens in San Jose around the farm when it is built.
Vision for the Farm:
Recent research has a shown links between urban agriculture and increased foot traffic at local businesses, as well as increased social interactions between nearby community members, which leads to safer communities. We see this farm as a new pathway for economic development.
More specifically, the farm will serve two purposes. One will be to serve as an educational hub for community members to learn about and interact with food through gardening, cooking, and nutrition classes. A portion (~10%) of the farm will be set aside for active learning and participation.
Two will be to produce revenue with a high-yield system, specifically designed to be mobile should the farm need to leave, and will include:
- intensive intercropping- focus on high value crops (such as lettuce mixes and herbs)
- worm composting (both for ourselves and for sale)
- bees (for honey and wax)
- laying hens for egg cultivation
- a weekly CSA
- partnerships with local restaurants
We will also recruit a butcher, a baker, and a cheesemaker to create a one stop shop experience, in addition to processing some of the fruit we harvest to jams to help support the construction of new gardens and offer more fruit picking opportunities. In year two, we will add a community kitchen to process our yields into salsas, pestos, tomato sauces, and more. In year three, we plan to include a food truck that utilizes our fresh ingredients to create a more wholistic food experience.
Vision for Non-Profit:
By fostering the creation of this urban farm, which will effectively kickstart the nonprofit, you will be increasing healthy food access and gardening knowledge in San Jose by creating a community based food system in addition to start capitalizing on San Jose's vacant lots. We hope this can be a model that others can follow, and will gladly help entrepreneurs build additional urban farms on vacant lots. Please help us get the ball rolling!
Thanks to Tom Tripp for putting together the awesome video and helping me bring this Kickstarter to life. It is people like him that have made this project successful to date!
Risks and challenges
Learning how to grow food commercially will not be an easy task. Although we have a lot of talented people on our team that have run their own gardens for many years, no one has done this commercially. However, we have a lot of people with a lot of skills to produce a high-yield farm (chicken gurus, bee experts, contractors, designers, etc). This team will set the stage, and the rest we will learn by doing - by paying close attention and responding to problems quickly. I am also enrolled in the Master Gardeners program of Santa Clara County to continue gaining skills I need to fully assist my community, pass on the knowledge of what I have learned, and grow excellent food. I will also be recruiting the other full-time position for someone more experienced in growing food to help the project be successful quickly.
Another big challenge will be keeping all the projects humming along and staying organized: maintaining school gardens, a community garden, a fruit picking program, several neighborhood gardens, and starting a farm sounds pretty daunting at first blush. However, we have a pretty amazing bunch of people helping drive this here bus, and our goal all along has been to eventually turn over these projects to the community when they are ready.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
This kickstarter campaign was deliberately generated to build excitement, establish a baseline. and become a leveraging point for future funding endeavors. In essence, when i go to a grantor, or a foundation, etc. I can show them this kickstarter and say, "Hey, look at the support I got: people love this idea, and now is the time to go big with it." Also, by putting the idea out into the public spotlight, I have opened it up to comment and criticism, which is helping me refine the idea even more. When the kickstarter campaign ends, I will refine the business plan one last time before doing the full court press: contacting foundations, going after big grants, and contacting some of the larger organizations in the Bay Area to seek out sponsors. I believe there is plenty of interest and funding options available nationwide generally, but in the Bay Area specifically, but to get them, you have to everything planned out to the T, which this kickstarter is doing quite wonderfully.
This is without a doubt the most complicated part of the entire idea. One of the things I am working on is finding the sweet spot of striking a balance between the property owner's need to make a profit (a farm is just not worth more than a mixed-use housing/retail project - can't fight that), and the community's need to get value out of an otherwise idle property and improve their local surroundings (which urban farms have proven to do). One key consideration is that it can take over a year to process building permits, gain entitlements, and secure funding for a new development. So, the key is to make certain that the urban farm has a minimum lease on the land (ideally 5 years, realistically 3 years, and at a minimum 2 years). Additionally, this whole idea is being developed with the idea that any vacant lot turned into an urban farm will be temporary, and will be designed accordingly so that if we must go, we can easily move on to the next site. Also, by building neighborhood gardens and establishing fruit harvesting efforts around the farm, no matter what happens, the community keeps that knowledge, and the value of the neighborhood will increase (which is another benefit to the property owner to wait it out a little longer).
Vacant parcels cost money to maintain in any municipality, and many sit idle for several years before being put to productive use. More specifically, the vacant lots in San Jose (CA) collectively cost millions of dollars each year to maintain (in terms of taxes, weeding, trash removal, and policie calls, affecting both public and private dollars) in an area with some of the best weather on the planet. And while these parcels sit idle, thousands upon thousands of individuals within city limits suffer from food insecurity and unemployment. It does not need to be this way. There is an incredible economic opportunity here to capitalize on underutilized vacant parcels, capture new markets in underserved communities, harvest neglected fruit trees, increase the health of local residents, and decrease the cost of City services by increasing social interactions within target communities by placing urban farms in the right locations. Not only are all of the above totally achievable, but we can create jobs, revenue, and be a self sustaining organization with regular income.
CUC is an organization that brings together the collective power of residents in the communities surround San Jose State University (SJSU), service learners and faculty from San Jose State University, and resources from the City of San Jose.
Although we are planning on becoming our own organization, we will always be strong partners with CUC, as they have helped us, and many other projects, get off the ground and become successful.
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